Home » Python » How to avoid “Permission denied” when using pip with virtualenv

How to avoid “Permission denied” when using pip with virtualenv

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment


I attempt to deploy a Python package with pip in a virtual environment on an Ubuntu machine, but encounter a permission-related issue. For example:

(TestVirtualEnv)[email protected]:~$ pip install markdown2

terminates by:

error: could not create ‘/home/test/virtualenvs/TestVirtualEnv/lib/python3.3/site-packages/markdown2.py’: Permission denied

I can’t sudo, since it will install the package globally, and not within the virtual environment. I chowned site-packages; ls shows only directories related to easy_install, pip and setuptools, and nothing related to Markdown.

How to deploy a package in a virtual environment with pip without encountering permission-related errors?


virtualenv permission problems might occur when you create the virtualenv as sudo and then operate without sudo in the virtualenv.

As found out in your question’s comment, the solution here is to create the virtualenv without sudo to be able to work (esp. write) in it without sudo.



If you created the virtualenv as root, run the following command:

sudo chown -R your_username:your_username path/to/virtuaelenv/

This will probably fix your problem.



I didn’t create my virtualenv using sudo. So Sebastian’s answer didn’t apply to me. My project is called utils. I checked utils directory and saw this:

-rw-r--r--   1 macuser  staff   983  6 Jan 15:17 README.md
drwxr-xr-x   6 root     staff   204  6 Jan 14:36 utils.egg-info
-rw-r--r--   1 macuser  staff    31  6 Jan 15:09 requirements.txt

As you can see, utils.egg-info is owned by root not macuser. That is why it was giving me permission denied error. I also had to remove /Users/macuser/.virtualenvs/armoury/lib/python2.7/site-packages/utils.egg-link as it was created by root as well. I did pip install -e . again after removing those, and it worked.


In my case, I was using mkvirtualenv, but didn’t tell it I was going to be using python3. I got this error:

mkvirtualenv hug
pip3 install hug -U

error: could not create '/usr/lib/python3.4/site-packages': Permission denied

It worked after specifying python3:

mkvirtualenv --python=/usr/bin/python3 hug
pip3 install hug -U


You did not activate the virtual environment before using pip.

Try it with:

$(your venv path) . bin/activate

And then use pip -r requirements.txt on your main folder


While creating virtualenv if you use sudo the directory is created with root privileges.So when you try to install a package with non-sudo user you won’t have permission to install into it.
So always create virtualenv without sudo and install without sudo.

You can also copy packages installed on global python to virtualenv.

cp -r /lib/python/site-packages/* virtualenv/lib/python/site-packages/